Monday, October 18, 2010
I fear that I was born with a disorder that’s never been officially diagnosed. It’s not life threatening but sure can be life changing. I first heard about it when we lived in a small town in Missouri and found out we were moving to Washington D.C. Because I had grown up in Missouri, gone to college in Missouri, then met, married and settled down with Jeff for nine years in Missouri, this move seemed to come out of nowhere to our friends. After the announcement, a woman from church said to me, “I envy you. Before we had kids I had such a strong case of wanderlust. I wish I still did.”
It left me thinking for days. Wanderlust. What a fun word. It so accurately described how I’d felt since I was a child. Craving the chance to travel. Curious about what was ‘out there’. Anxious to take a trip, any trip, to any location.
When I was growing up, my huge family rarely traveled. The few trips we took, mainly to Colorado to see grandparents, were played over in my brain for years to come. I jumped at the chance to go on church mission trips every year. As a fifteen year old I traveled to Haiti with a church group and got my first nibble at life in another culture. I was officially hooked.
While in college, as my options expanded, I took a trip to Germany and Switzerland and soaked in their culture. Then I met my man from New Hampshire and together we took weekend trips, sometimes to destinations like Nashville, and sometimes just long drives down unknown roads. The goal was to see what was around the next corner.
One summer we tag teamed with two friends and camped across the country, arriving in Washington state just in time for a mutual friends wedding. Every gorgeous state we passed through, from Wyoming to Idaho, we’d announce to the group, “This state is gorgeous! Some day we should live here!”
So I guess it seemed like the natural progression of things, that once we married and had a few kids fill up the back seat of the car, we’d continue to explore in any way we could. There are many fun places to roam in the middle of Missouri. Kansas City and St. Louis are just two hours away. The Ozarks are just about three. We took the kids on many small trips and tried to instill in them this magical disease called wanderlust.
Every October I’d drive our preschoolers across the country, to New Hampshire, to see Jeff’s large family who only knew our children by pictures posted on their fridges. For a month we’d play with these uncles who were barely out of high school. Picking apples and having impromptu parades through the house to the soundtrack of The Jungle Book left all of us with memories that lasted the next 11 months, until we’d meet up again. Sometimes Jeff flew out to join us for a week and then he’d fly home to work and the preschoolers and I would pack up the car to drive back home. Every step of the journey was a joy; nothing but time to explore new roads and find new places.
Then came the big job change and the move to the East coast. Our friends were skeptical but we were thrilled. Who cared that it was less than a year after September 11th and the terror threat was set at red most of the time? An opportunity to explore the nation’s capital by living there was too much to pass up.
As we finished up the first of what was supposed to be two years in D.C., a drastic change of plans came from Jeff’s boss. We were being moved to Utah. We’d never considered Utah. Colorado was familiar, but who’d ever been to Utah? In the days of very early internet options, Jeff instead brought home pamphlets and books that showed our kids what this new state would look like. If it was half as amazing as the pictures implied, we were game.
Since we had the summer to get there, the kids and I took the three week path across the country, sweeping down the southeast and taking in a part of the country we were not familiar with. We finally sat on a beach in Florida and took our picture by a sign saying, ‘Welcome to Baghdad’ in Louisiana. The path led us straight to my sister’s house in Dallas, where we played for a few days before driving the no man’s land of west Texas and heading up the middle of Colorado.
Within days we were passing through Wyoming, once again spell bound by its beauty. Then we finally got to our new home state, entering from the north, and blown away by the continuing splendor as we drove through Park City. For the next three years we explored every corner of that magical state, from frequent trips back up to Park City, to hiking trips through the red rock arches in the south. We drove through Native American reservations and crawled into dwellings that are carved in the cliffs at the Four Corners. It’s one of the main symptoms of wanderlust. An inability to sit at home when the car has a full tank of gas and there’s nothing on the family schedule.
Eventually we moved back East and continue to explore this area every chance we get. My children are showing signs of inheriting this wandering way of life. I’ve discovered that the only real drawback to infecting them with wanderlust is the fact that there’s a good chance that none of them will live close to us as they make their own way in life. Each has their own dreams about where they’ll live and explore when they get the chance, and it looks like they’ll be scattered by the wind. I’m okay with it though.
It just means more places for me and Jeff to travel once our nest is empty.